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Boundary-layer mantle flow under the Dead Sea transform fault inferred from seismic anisotropy


Lithospheric-scale transform faults play an important role in the dynamics of global plate motion. Near-surface deformation fields for such faults are relatively well documented by satellite geodesy, strain measurements and earthquake source studies1,2, and deeper crustal structure has been imaged by seismic profiling3. Relatively little is known, however, about deformation taking place in the subcrustal lithosphere—that is, the width and depth of the region associated with the deformation, the transition between deformed and undeformed lithosphere and the interaction between lithospheric and asthenospheric mantle flow at the plate boundary. Here we present evidence for a narrow, approximately 20-km-wide, subcrustal anisotropic zone of fault-parallel mineral alignment beneath the Dead Sea transform, obtained from an inversion of shear-wave splitting observations along a dense receiver profile. The geometry of this zone and the contrast between distinct anisotropic domains suggest subhorizontal mantle flow within a vertical boundary layer that extends through the entire lithosphere and accommodates the transform motion between the African and Arabian plates within this relatively narrow zone.

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Figure 1: Study area and shear-wave splitting parameters.
Figure 2: Radial (R) and transverse (T) components of SKS waveforms from the Volcano Island earthquake.
Figure 3: The relative variance (filled circles) between splitting parameters obtained from observed and calculated waveforms as function of the total number of anisotropic domains in the crust and mantle.
Figure 4: Model of anisotropy beneath the profile and comparison between observed and calculated shear-wave splitting parameters.


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We are grateful to the Geophysical Institute of Israel, the National Ministry of Infrastructure of Israel, the Natural Resources Authority of Jordan, and the An-Najah University in Nablus, Palestine Authority, for their support. The instruments were provided by the Geophysical Instrument Pool of the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam. The experiment was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, and the Minerva Dead Sea Research Centre.

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Correspondence to Georg Rümpker.

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Rümpker, G., Ryberg, T., Bock, G. et al. Boundary-layer mantle flow under the Dead Sea transform fault inferred from seismic anisotropy. Nature 425, 497–501 (2003).

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